Separate school division scores high marks

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Okotoks’ separate school system hopes to maintain its education standards from 2017 while tackling other issues in the new year.

“The biggest thing academically in 2017 is we are already performing at high levels in provincial achievement tests, [PATs]” said Scott Morrison, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools. “This year we continued that, but the results were so strong that we got a rating of Improved significantly — not only the highest achievement but the highest improvement rating you can measure.”

All Grade 6 and 9 students in the province write provincial achievement tests. Morrison said the division was approximately 10 per cent above the provincial average in pass rates. As well it was about 10 per cent above the province’s average for excellence rates for the Grade 6 and 9’s PATs.

“That is our whole division — Okotoks is even higher,” Morrison said.

He added CTR Catholic students also did well in high school diploma exams. The reason, said Morrison, is a photographer’s dream.

“Focus,” Morrison said. “Not being distracted, being focused on the curriculum, ensuring the kids have good education basic skills and taught to think critically as well.”

CTR Catholic students also did well in high school diploma exams.

The division took pride in the students feeling at ease while focused in the classroom. Its schools received thumbs up from stakeholders as places that are safe and caring according to parent-student satisfaction surveys.

“Given the level of anxiety and depression that we see in society and across the board in students — not just our students, but we see it societal,” he said. “Ninety-four per cent of our parents, staff and students, believe the kids are safe and cared for in our schools.

“When you consider how kids are feeling in general when we have so many kids with anxiety or depression, I find it heart-warming. We don’t pretend those problems aren’t there but I hope our schools are places of sanctuary for them.”

The division is hoping to tackle some of those anxiety issues in the near future.

It is working on a program for the 2017-18 school year to handle students’ anxiety caused by smartphones, social media and other development in this rapidly changing world.

“We thought: ‘why is there a rise in anxiety depression — are parents parenting different? Are schools schooling differently?” Morrison said. “I don’t think we are making crazy demands on kids and we don’t see parents doing things a lot differently. We believe it is due to smartphones, specifically, and technology in general… We think our kids need to develop healthy relationships and use technology responsibly.

“Taking relationship risks that are normal and healthy for a child. It is so easy to make a mistake and be impulsive when you have smartphone in your hand… In a perfect world by next year we will have in place a full unit of lessons in every grade from 4 to 12, where we talking about relationships as it connects to the use of technology and smartphones — how are they helping, how are they hurting.”

CTR Catholic has put an emphasis on literacy and numeracy for the past few years. Now it will pay further attention to beakers, Bunsen burners and Newton’s laws of motion to name a few.

“We have been giving so much attention to literacy and numeracy that we want to target science,” Morrison said. “We hope to plan some sessions this summer to get science teachers to align curriculum and share best practices.”

He called the sessions “a sharpening of the sword” as the division has had strong results in science in past.

The sessions will be paid for from the division’s Classroom Improvement Fund, which was part of teachers’ salary negotiations, which were settled across Alberta last spring.

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